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Funding the Fuzz

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Mayor Mark Farrell only has six weeks left in office, but he’s not letting the short timeline hold back his political agenda. On Tuesday, he announced a $34.2 million investment in citywide public safety efforts, the bulk of which will go toward hiring 250 new officers for the force over the next four years.

“Public safety has always been my top priority as Mayor,” he said, despite only having held the office since January. “I am following through on my commitment to add additional officers to neighborhoods across San Francisco.

“The men and women of the San Francisco Police Department are some of the finest officers in the country — we just need more of them,” he added, neatly sidestepping the fact that SFPD has been mired in controversy for years over its use of force, several officer-involved shootings, and racist text message scandals. The situation got so bad that the Obama-era U.S. Department of Justice gave SFPD 272 recommendations it needs to adopt to clean up its act.

That said, $1.7 million of this budget has been earmarked for yet-to-be-announced police reform measures, so there’s at least a nod to the need for change.

Along with the 250 new hires, the budget allows for a large wave of promotions, with funding set aside for 20 sergeants and two lieutenant positions.

The rest of the budget will be split between a $7.5 million purchase of 130 new police vehicles — something the Police Officers Association has requested help with for years — and $3 million for tasers. The latter appears to be locked in, regardless of whether voters approve Proposition H, which would grant $8 million to SFPD for taser purchases, in June.

Predictably, SFPD Police Chief William Scott supports this increase in funding.

“This commitment from Mayor Farrell will enable and empower the hardworking men and women of the San Francisco Police Department to better address the evolving public safety needs of our city,” he said.

From the outside, it may just appear that Farrell is responding to the steep rise in property crimes — particularly auto break-ins — that city residents have suffered in the past few years. When he was made interim mayor in January, he told the media that it would be his final political role, and that he would not run for mayor.

But despite the need for new vehicles and more beat cops on our streets, this generous funding toward the police force reeks of political maneuvering: It would be an easy sell to future voters who prioritize public safety records in their candidates, and with the funding for cars and tasers, would almost definitely earn the vote of the very-opinionated Police Officers Association. Public safety aside, if Farrell is planning to continue his political career, he’s just won himself a hefty endorsement.

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Nuala Sawyer

Nuala Sawyer is the News Editor at SF Weekly. You can reach her at (415)-359-2644 or nsawyer@sfweekly.com. Follow her on Twitter at @TheBestNuala.

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